The landmark we simply could not miss during our visit to the United Arab Emirates was the physics-defying Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, the tallest structure in the world, culminating at 828 meters (2,717 feet).
The tower is a sight to behold in the desert sunlight reflecting violently off the 28,000 panels of glass composing the outside of the structure. It is absolutely breathtaking and shapes the Dubai horizon, rising above its skyline, so that everywhere you look, you can see its peak far above the other skyscrapers.
Burj Khalifa represents what the emirate of Dubai is all about: a crazy, modern, excessive, record-setting high class marvel. It is almost impossible to describe the sheer wonder looking at this marvel of modern construction from its foot. Almost a kilometer high, Burj Khalifa is home to the Armani Hotel, many office and residential floors, and the Atmosphere restaurant, the highest in the world, with a view to die for.
The tower was inaugurated with great fanfare in January 2010, and remains to this day the most record-breaking building in the world, including: the world’s tallest skyscraper, the world’s tallest free-standing structure, the building counting the highest number of floors (a total of 163), as well as the world’s longest travel distance for an elevator (504 ft)!
Visitors can access the 124th floor observation deck via the ‘At the Top’ experience (see below for details). Once you step out of the rocket fast elevator (the ride takes a mere 60 seconds!), the doors open to a 360° glassed-in observation deck, the 2nd highest in the world, only recently surpassed by the Canton Tower in China. A portion of this deck brings you outside (yes, at an altitude of 452 meters!) where elaborate glass walls let in the powerful wind flow… And yes, make you fear for your life as you approach the edge to admire the view (after all, you’re not Ethan Hunt!).
And what a view!
Views from ‘At The Top’ can only be described as aerial, since such vantages could only be replicated while flying over the city in a plane. The colossal height makes surrounding skyscrapers look like diorama models, and give you a good look at how Dubai emerged directly from the sand.
Through the telescopes available it is also possible to have a closer look at the surrounding sights, from the Burj al Arab hotel to the Emirates Towers. We were even able to see a glimpse of The Palm and The World, the artificial islands spawning from the shore into the Persian Gulf!
Extra care has been put into the experience as a whole, whether it be the insanely fast elevator ride in which we were treated to a light-and-sound show, or the beautifully detailed patterns of islamic architecure’s elements. Emiratis are truly proud of their heritage and accomplishments, and as you walk from the elevator, you can read all about the research & development and the building process of the tower. (The film Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol had finished shooting a few months prior to our visit and props were also on display for visitors). The foregrounds surrounding the base of the tower are also adorned with many impressive, intricate and modern architectural details, and at night the tower is even more impressive with its dramatic lighting.
Without a doubt, visiting Burj Khalifa truly is an extraordinary experience, showing the reach of human will and the prowess of modern technology, and it left us with unforgettable memories. (And did I mention the views?!)
Burj Khalifa is accessible from its neighboring Dubai Mall, where visitors can purchase timed tickets for the ‘At The Top’ observation deck (even though it is not actually at the top, but we think naming it “somewhat three quarters of the way to the top” didn’t have the same flow to it). Ticket purchase can also be made in advance online for the same price: 125 AED, approx. 34$. Is it touristy? Not really. Is it worth the money? Absolutely.